Andre Iguodala Taking Burden Off Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson for GSW

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2013

Nov 4, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) celebrates hitting a three point shot during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Warriors defeated the Sixers 110-90. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors picking up Andre Iguodala may have been the best acquisition of the 2013 offseason. And no, I didn't forget about the Houston Rockets landing Dwight Howard.

As the keystone of the Denver Nuggets last season, Iguodala often created for others, led breaks on offense and assumed the responsibility of defending the opposition's best wing.

He did all those things without needing to score—one of those rare players who's clearly a star without tallying tons of points.

He averaged just 13 points a game for the Nuggets but was still widely regarded as the second-biggest fish behind Howard because of his defense and playmaking.

And now, with those two traits, Iguodala may be doing more for the Warriors than Howard is doing for the Rockets.

Tuesday night's game against the Detroit Pistons was fantastic evidence of what Iguodala can do for Golden State on offense without scoring:

Many of those assists came in the open court, where Iguodala is keenly aware of the locations of his teammates.

And because he knows where they are, Iguodala often makes his decision on what he's going to do with the ball before he even gets it. Twice on Tuesday night, he hit David Lee with behind-the-back passes that happened in essentially the same motion as the catch.

Both were similar to this dime to Lee from a game against the Philadelphia 76ers:

Lee was the immediate beneficiary on these plays, but they positively affect the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, as well.

Last season, most outlet passes had to go to Curry. He's obviously well-equipped to handle the break himself, but having Iguodala as an option opens up different opportunities for Curry.

At Davidson, Curry spent most of his four-year college career playing shooting guard. He was one of the best in the nation at moving without the ball and finding openings and seams in defenses. 

Iguodala allows him to do that again. When the wing starts the break (whether after his own rebound or upon catching an outlet from Lee or Andrew Bogut), it allows Curry and Klay Thompson to streak down the sidelines and find openings along the three-point line.

When Iguodala gets into the lane, defenses have to collapse. That leaves Iguodala with options, and he's very willing to pass:

In the above play against the Pistons, Iguodala recognized Kyle Singler committing to him rather than Lee. He dropped the behind-the-back pass for the assist. Had Singler stayed with Lee, Iguodala had a shooter spotted up on the wing.

Another break showcased Iguodala's unselfishness:

In that case, Iguodala could easily have dropped in a left-handed layup but decided to drop it off for Lee once again.

And it's not just Iguodala's passing that's helping out. His shooting has been great this year as well:

That kind of shooting forces defense to honor him along the perimeter. And the more attention they have to pay to him, the less they can pay to Curry and Thompson.

But perhaps the most important contribution Iguodala makes to the Warriors, and the one that might make them title contenders, is on the other end. 

When most people look at his stats this season, they'll notice the 5.8 assists, 15 points or 44.8 percent from three-point range. Me? I'm intrigued by defensive rating (DRtg).

It's an estimate of how many points a player allows per 100 possessions. Posting a DRtg under 100 is pretty darn good, and Iguodala's at 97.

But that doesn't tell the story entirely. There are five players this season who are averaging at least 35 minutes and posting a DRtg at or less than 97: Kevin Love, Paul George, Anthony Davis, Lance Stephenson and Iguodala.

Nov 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings small forward John Salmons (5) passes the ball against Golden State Warriors shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sustaining that level of defensive intensity for that long is not easy, and these guys should be recognized for their efforts.

With the possible exception of Love, each of those guys gets specific defensive assignments every game. They're tasked with stopping some of the game's best scorers.

For the Warriors, that was a job that Thompson had to take on last season. Iguodala takes that pressure off, and since Thompson can now focus more energy and attention on offense, his efficiency has seen a significant bump.

The sample size is obviously small, but Thompson's player efficiency rating in 2013-14 is 19.1—much better than the 12.7 he posted in 2012-13.

And you know what the scariest part of all this is? It is a small sample size. The Warriors have only played eight games this season. They have 74 more to get used to playing with each other.

Even more chemistry is going to develop for this squad. And Curry and Thompson don't have to be the only chemists.


All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference or unless otherwise noted.

For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter @AndrewDBailey.


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